Six Surprising Health Benefits of Owning a Dog
Pets add value to our lives in a myriad of unimaginable and sometimes unseen ways. Though most people don’t require justification for adopting a dog, there are many benefits, nonetheless. Not only do dogs serve as loving life partners but they can also serve as reliable nurses. Owning a dog can yield impressive benefits throughout all sectors of your life. This guide explores some of the most notable health benefits of owning a dog in regard to both physical and mental health.
Mental health benefits
Dogs have long been known as man’s best friend and with good reason. Dogs are loyal and loving companions who will stand by your side through thick and thin and will love you unconditionally through it all. It’s this steadfast love that often means the most and can cause dog owners to feel happier overall than non-pet owners. In fact, studies show that dog owners show fewer symptoms of depression than non-pet owners. Owning a dog gives you another being to look after and care for—an important factor for people may who feel they have no purpose in life. Plus, it gives you a sense of purpose and allows you to form a deep emotional connection with another being; one who you know will always love you. Additionally, talking to, petting, or even simply looking at your dog can help raise your body’s oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin levels. These are the chemicals in your body responsible for making you feel good. Increasing the levels of these chemicals, therefore, can help decrease feelings of depression and even loneliness. This has proven particularly beneficial to older dog owners who have recently suffered the loss of a loved one or individuals who have suffered a traumatic incident.
In much the same way that dogs can help decrease feelings of depression, they can also help relieve stress and anxiety. Stress can manifest itself in very physical ways and can significantly impact bodily function. For instance, during a moment of great stress, one may find that their heart rate increases, their muscles tense up, and their breathing becomes fast and shallow. Interacting with a dog helps relieve some of these symptoms, allowing you to breathe easier and tackle potentially stressful situations with ease. Petting a dog can help lower blood pressure, steady heart rate, and helps you feel more relaxed in general. It has also been shown that dog owners experience a lower level of stress hormones in their blood chemistry than non-pet owners. Serotonin and dopamine (two chemicals that play a large role in pleasure and happiness) also pertain to serenity and peace. Serotonin and dopamine levels increase when interacting with a dog, thereby creating a general sense of ease and calmness.
Better social skills
Humans are highly social beings who prefer to spend their time surrounded by others. Pack animals by nature, dogs are also very social beings who possess the ability to form strong, lifelong friendships with their owners. Not only does owning a dog help you develop important social skills, including empathy and confidence, but it can also help you form stronger friendships with human companions, as well. Forging friendships as an adult can be hard, but with a dog by your side, anything seems possible and you’ll feel more confident approaching a stranger and striking up a conversation. Whether on a morning walk or a trip to the local park, dog owners are more likely to begin a conversation with strangers than non-dog owners—perhaps because their dog serves as the perfect ice breaker. These improved social skills can help stave off feelings of loneliness and solitude that come quite naturally to many adults. Even if you prefer to carefully curate the company you keep and view yourself as more of an introvert, you’ll never be alone with a dog by your side.
Physical health benefits
Improves cardiovascular health
One of the most notable physical health benefits of owning a dog is the impact it can have on overall cardiovascular health. Petting a dog can help lower blood pressure and reduce the effects of anxiety and stress. Lowering blood pressure simultaneously lowers triglyceride and cholesterol levels, effectively decreasing the risk of developing heart disease. Improved cardiovascular health places you at a lower risk of heart attack and increases the survival rate in the event that a heart attack should occur. Dog owners who suffer a heart attack are also at lower risk of suffering another cardiac event than non-pet owners. Dog owners also tend to be slightly more active than non-pet owners. Cardio exercise, even in the form of one short walk per day, can help improve overall cardiovascular health in the long run.
Defense against disease and injury
Perhaps the most amazing quality of dogs is their unique ability to detect the signs of disease and distress long before their owner is able to. Dogs are highly intelligent creatures who can be trained to aid owners with disabilities or detect certain diseases before the onset of symptoms. Dogs have been known to sniff out various types of cancer, can detect low blood sugar in owners with diabetes, and can even recognize the beginning signs of a seizure. Some dogs can receive training to help their owners avoid certain foods or items they may be allergic to. Dogs possess many more olfactory receptors in their noses than humans do, allowing them to detect scents in trace amounts that would easily go unnoticed by human senses.
Increased physical activity
Dogs are the perfect pet for anyone looking to kickstart a more active lifestyle. It’s recommended that adults get at least 30 minutes of exercise each day. Between daily walks and periodic playtimes, dog owners often receive more than this daily recommendation. Daily exercises with your dog will help you establish a more regular workout routine, which can help improve cardiovascular health, increase stamina and endurance, and improve overall physical fitness. Many dog breeds enjoy extensive exercise and can be trained to accompany you on your daily hikes, runs, and outdoor adventures. This exercise will improve your dog’s health as much as it will improve your own. However, be sure to allot a few rest days between adventures—particularly if you and your pup prefer more strenuous activities. Be on the lookout for signs of injury in your pup as well. Long runs or hikes along treacherous trails can increase your dog’s risk of developing an injury. Be sure to pack a first aid kit complete with bandages, water, and a therapeutic dog hock brace before setting out on your next great adventure. This will ensure that any injuries are dealt with quickly and efficiently so both you and your dog can stay in peak physical form.